Forest Hill

Parking is difficult, I told my friend David, by way of explanation. After all, I do own a car, and San Francisco does have streets, and even parking spaces, I swear. I swear by the Muni, unfortunately, so what’s a guy to do? Few, very few people delight in the arrival of the 44 O’Shaughnessy bus, but I am among this minority. And here it comes, right up Bosworth Street, looking mighty and looking new. That’s right, this sucker is brand spanking new, not to mention engaged in the burning of biodiesel, whatever that is, and a hybrid. Furthermore, I am among the first in Glen Park to experience the new bulb out in the very heart of our neighborhood.

Unfortunately, I have become inured to the expression ‘bulb out,’ and so have lost all perspective. I suppose it’s serviceable, as terms go, certainly descriptive. Because that’s what these structures do, make a sidewalk balloon slightly from its normal course, projecting a bulb of footpath at a street junction. So, with one bit of footpath bulbing here, and another bulbing there all four corners of an intersection get a bit closer, curving out toward each other…becoming concrete friends. Also, at the point where the bulb begins bulbing, one has an excellent opportunity to site a bus stop, vis-à-vis the 44 O’Shaughnessy…which pulls up just short of the curving pavement, stopping without blocking traffic…which is already blocked by the, you guessed it, bulb out. Isn’t that cool? I certainly think so.

Doubtless many of my neighbors do not, particularly those who drive a lot, and especially those who commute. Everyone wants to see cars move through the junction of Diamond and Bosworth Streets more easily. Which is fine, but what about the buses? And what about people waiting for the buses on the…surprise…bulb out? I am one of them. And I’m here to report that there is not only room for bus passengers, but one wheelchair, and now one bus ramp.

In short, I am sold on the bulb out even before I board the 44. Which, let us note, leaves the entire intersection in a cloud of transit dust. Bosworth Street and O’Shaughnessy, its canyon cousin, were designed for speed. And speed is what the bus driver does, roaring up the curves at enough of a clip to send my wheelchair skidding. Dammed if I’m not at 45° in no time. Unnerving? Oh, slightly, but I’m also holding on to a stainless steel railing, which steadies me in every sense of the word. Besides, before we know it, the bus has crested the hill, slid around a couple of more curves to stop at Forest Hill Station.

A quick glance at the web describes it as the deepest transit station west of Chicago. Wow. Depth is good, right? It’s downright amazing, considering that the station appeared before the neighborhood did. This bit of San Francisco ran to sand dunes and vacancy in those days. So what’s a guy to do if he’s mayor and wants to make a statement? Make a station, of course. And there it is, looking like a miniature courthouse of the era…just before the Great War. And in what must have been a forward thinking coup, there is not only a lobby, large enough to mildly echo…but four large elevators descending to either platform…of the long tram tunnel under Twin Peaks. There’s a car waiting, as it turns out, tram doors open long enough for me to slide aboard.

Okay, so it’s actually long enough for me to make a few phone calls and recite the Gettysburg address. Four score, indeed. I don’t know why we’re sitting here for this embarrassing length of time. And of course, no one is embarrassed but me. That’s because in my mind San Francisco’s Muni is a great work of the metropolis. It runs well and often, much like the 44 O’Shaughnessy bus. Which, by the way, takes me home. That is to say, I complete my journey…only a few hundred meters to the western portal of the tunnel…called somewhat unimaginatively West Portal…have lunch with David, then reverse course. And true to form, the 44 arcs and swerves, and my wheelchair does very much the same, this time accompanied by schoolkids and people who may be getting in early on the commute. Me, I am many things, but happily not a commuter.

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